In one week there are conversations with friends and family about impending divorce; the self-denial and provocative danger of two dearly loved addicts; the sombre discussion about mental illness and when do you stop helping; the reality of true poverty and old age and no place to go - no. place. to. go. There is the painful truth about chronic illness and no health care; there is the painful truth about caring for chronic illness and running out of hope and strength and everything you can run out of. There is the admission there is not enough money to pay the bills and another move looming, and the long disappointment of hopes deferred.
Every single conversation burrows down into a deep place and I can feel the digging and scraping beneath my ribs.
On Thursday I'm washing carrot greens in the sink and a kind of rage overtakes me. Outside the skies are sodden and I'm in my dark kitchen absurdly picking through carrot greens and nearly every person I care about needs some kind of major deliverance. I dry my hands and grab the candlestick from the table, fiddle with the box of matches, striking, striking, striking, until finally a flame. The candle sputters and purrs for a moment and then I cup the yellow flame and set the candlestick on the mantle. I want it to burn and burn so long that maybe God will notice. I can taste my frustration; I'm a first-born, a fixer, and I'm casting about in my mind for what it is I'm supposed to DO for all these people.
The candlelight flares up for a moment and my eye is drawn to the familiar artwork - the one piece of art that never gets put away in this house because it says the words I need to hear so often:
I know what those two words are supposed to mean to me: be still, just wait, don't fret, you don't have to fix all this, pray. In the last few hours I've considered how we are supposed to meet the needs. I've cursed our decision to downsize and live in a smaller house; I've cursed our stupidity for not realizing that there would be needs and we'd want to make room. In my mind, I've sold off our excess, taken out loans, remodeled the house, built an apartment off the back. I've been railing against God for not knowing this would happen, for not providing enough.
I'm no better than the fugitive Israelites, complaining to God about the desert and the lack of onions while the bodies of their abusers lie tucked under the watery blanket of the Red Sea.
It's a whisper, gentle, pointed straight at my heart. The digging and scratching beneath my ribs slows because I've almost got the thread of what He's saying now.
you don't have to fix all this.
And more than that:
It's okay to be small.
I breathe that in deep for a moment.
It's okay to have need and no answers.
It's okay to have not enough room, not enough money, not enough strength.
I'm thinking about that desert again and how the Israelites had to keep wandering, wandering, wandering until they understood that their emptiness and smallness, their very limitedness, was making room for the whole point: God Is Big.
It's okay to be small because smallness leaves me space to see God at work.
The candle keeps burning and a soft wonder begins to replace the gnawing at my chest.
I picture each person, each need, release my grip and let them go into the vast bigness of God.
He might make locusts blacken the horizon or draw water from a rock. He might drop unimagined food from a sodden winter sky. I might go out one night and see a column of fire and follow Him, astonished, to a hidden and hallowed place.
I smile to myself.
I don't have enough;
I am not enough.